Beyond Words

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So, some weeks back I was invited by Theresia Kleeman, who teaches at the Conservatory for the Arts at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena to come in as a guest artist and talk to the students. They have apparently been studying my art since the beginning of the semester. It’s all been so hard to believe, but it’s true.

I have been meaning to write a blog post about this experience for a little while now but I just haven’t been able to really put it into words because it was so surreal to have had the students study me and my work under such a meaningful trajectory – because the basic premise for their projects in regard to my work was authenticity. Even the syllabus was paralleling my work with the story of the Velveteen Rabbit and the idea of being “real.”

One of the first things Theresia did was take me into the student gallery where I saw about a dozen paintings – reproductions of my paintings, and if not my paintings, very personal pieces with writing on them that said “Inspired by Carol Es.” Now, this was not just something that was cute and flattering to me. It was mind-blowing and dreamlike. I didn’t have words, and it took whatever I had in me not to tear up and start weeping right then and there. I think I could not accept it. It felt like it must have been all about another artist. Not me. I really wasn’t able to handle it in that very moment. I kind of disassociated and left my body.

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But soon after this, the class started. I brought copies of the catalog from my last show for everyone in the class, also some Dan stickers and postcards in case anyone wanted them. They all wanted them. They all already knew who I was. It was weird. Some of the students even complimented me before we got started.

Theresia introduced me and I pretty much went right into a slide show of my early work – work I had been doing around the time I was their age. The students were mostly high school seniors, all girls. Most of them were shy and quiet and I kept worrying that they were bored. Truthfully, I was just nervous and still overcome with the amazing art they did in the gallery. Not only was it mind-blowing that they had painted my pictures, but they were all extremely talented. Many of the pieces were rendered and really professional. These are some gifted artists, I’ll tell you.

My main objective while I was there was to teach them how to use various sketchbooks and the importance of journaling. I asked Theresia to get all of the seniors the same type of mini Moleskin sketchbooks that I use, along with my favorite Fisher Space Pen – that writes upside down. I use this pen so that I can write and sketch my weird ideas when I am in a kind of sleep state in bed. I keep both the little sketchbook and that pen on my night table.

I also showed them parts of my Journal Project. I brought about 10 of those pieces and passed them around the class. I also showed them exactly how I keep my Eye Book, which I have talked about before. In fact, Theresia and I decided to make an entire workshop out of this concept – it’s based upon this concept anyway. I’m going to teach it to the students on November 6th when the whole school has their Arts Quest Day, which I am very much looking forward to. We are going to take this technique and aim it on how the students feel about a few different paintings: one of mine, a Van Gogh and a Paul Klee painting. Then we will have them journal their feelings about each piece and create their own art based on what they wrote. This process branches off from a technique that was taught to me by one of my great mentors, Ellie Blankfort who really works magic with artists at all points in their careers. She even does it long distance if you’re not local by the way.  She is the one that taught me how to keep the Eye Book, which was key in turning my art around. I owe her a great debt of gratitude for it in fact. There’s a specific way to do this technique and it is very helpful in becoming both objective about your own work, and getting in touch with your authentic imagination.

Arts Quest Day should be very interesting and I hope to take pictures of whatever I can for another blog post.

I still feel like I have not given this day much justice in writing about it here though, which is why it’s taken me so long to get it together. It was just beyond words really. It gave me a lot of food for thought about teaching though – whether or not I’m actually cut out for it. I have been thinking about it for years, but you’d be surprised at what my realizations are. I can’t share them just yet however.

Until next time.

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